Pac-12 commissioner calls on NBA stars like LeBron James to back up talk and help change system

The Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told Yahoo Sports on Monday that there needs to be “shared responsibility” at all levels to fix college basketball.

In pointed comments directed at wholesale change, Scott called for NBA stars such as LeBron James to follow through on their complaints about the NCAA and be part of changing the system. “In some perverse way, the worse the problems are, the more help they may be in the long run,” Scott said in a phone interview. “We need to have conviction that status quo is not an option.”

James made headlines for calling the NCAA “corrupt” and saying the NBA should have better options for kids who don’t want to play college basketball. Fellow superstars Kevin Durant and Draymond Green echoed the spirit of James’ comments about opportunity for players.

Scott called those comments a “real breakthrough” as he considers the National Basketball Players Association allowing players to enter the NBA out of high school a key part of change moving forward. (James came to the NBA out of high school in 2003, but the rule changed following the 2005 NBA draft that forced players to be either 19 years old or one year removed from high school.)

In October, in the wake of 10 arrests in a federal corruption probe into the sport, NBA commissioner Adam Silver hinted at change in an ESPN interview. “It’s clear a change will come,” he said in reference to the so-called one-and-done rule. Silver said then he’d reached out to union president Michele Roberts on the topic and wanted star Chris Paul and Hornets owner Michael Jordan to run point on the issue.

How will the NCAA solve its many problems? Larry Scott is looking for help from NBA stars like LeBron James. (Getty)
How will the NCAA solve its many problems? Larry Scott is looking for help from NBA stars like LeBron James. (Getty)

Scott saw the flurry of star player comments the past few days as another positive sign. “The most influential voices have the opportunity to persuade the NBA and the NBA Players Association that they ought to let high school players go to the NBA if they are ready,” Scott said. “I think that’s one of the key pillars to the solution space here.”

The NBA players’ comments came in the wake of Yahoo Sports reports last week that showed how the black market of under-the-table payments to top prospects and their families worked at the agency of Andy Miller, a prominent former NBA agent. “I don’t think anyone feels good about what we saw in [Yahoo’s] report and what we saw come out last week,” Scott said. “Reputations are being harmed. If there are rules, people need to be accountable for following them. But it’s high time to revisit the rules.”

Scott said that goes well beyond the NBA Players Association. He said the NCAA needs to re-examine the entire recruiting process and do a better job educating families about their options. He added that he’d like to see a three-year minimum, much like in baseball or football, for players who decide to attend college. “Everyone would benefit if there was a clear distinction, a fork in the road,” Scott said. “You either get paid to play basketball or you use basketball as a way to get access to a better path, that’s through the NCAA and college basketball.”

Scott also called for the NCAA enforcement model to be changed: “The NCAA has lost too much credibility around the whole enforcement process with our schools.”

Scott assembled a Pac-12 task force in November that includes Warriors GM Bob Myers, former Pac-12 coach Mike Montgomery and former Stanford and NBA star Brevin Knight. He said they are hoping that their findings can supplement the NCAA Commission on College Basketball, headed by Condoleezza Rice, that the NCAA announced in October is “examining critical aspects of a system that clearly is not working.”

The Rice commission is expected to forward its findings in April.

The Pac-12’s task force is expected to present their findings at the next board meeting, which will take place at the Pac-12 tournament next week.

Wholesale change is going to take cooperation at every level, which is why Scott was so encouraged at what he heard from some of the NBA’s top stars.

“I’m delighted to hear them focused on it,” Scott said. “What I hear them saying is young high school players ought to have a choice and be able to be paid to play. I’m inviting them to be part of the solution and work with their Players Association to allow kids to go to the NBA right out of high school. That would help tremendously if kids are given that choice.”

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